Genre of the Week: Skwerl


Have you ever wondered how communication can sometimes go awry, especially when one does not understand the other’s language and goes off on a tangent? Many of us have had misunderstandings while talking to each other because of different ideas, different ways of wording ourselves, and in many cases, the way we communicate with our accents. A while back, I wrote an article on this particular topic but from an American’s point of view for many cultures have a problem with the various dialects we have in our country (click here to read it). Yet we sometimes have a big issue understanding the dialects of other English-speaking people- in particular, the British and the Scottish. This genre of the week, entitled Skwerl is one of those rather extreme examples, where American and British English and even urban slang from both come together. Produced by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccelston and released in 2011, the five-minute film features a couple at the dinner table in an apartment, eating and talking nonsense, while at the same time, tensions start boiling until the girl clears the table and brings the desert. The film features slang and other forms of miscommunication which makes it difficult for even the native speaker to understand. To better grasp the scene, here is a tip worth considering when playing this short film:

  1. Pre-viewing exercise: Try silent viewing, where the film is played without the sound, and the viewers guess at what the couple is doing and talking about. Then list some common themes that can cause an argument.
  2. While-viewing exercise: Play the film and try to grasp what they are talking about. This may have to be done 2-3 times. Then look at the script provided by Brian and Karl here and look up the words you don’t know.
  3. Post-viewing exercise: What happens next after presenting the cake? Do they kiss and make up? Continue the script but keep the language use simple.

To sum up, when watching this short film the title of the clip was “This is how English sounds to non-English people.” The author begs to differ for reasons to be read in the Strange American Accent article whose link is above. If the urban slang was not used, then we would have a better understanding of how this conversation was going. However, the purpose of using the slang is to provide the reader with a whiff of how English is communicated in different- rather urban- settings. We cannot expect to be perfect with slang (and we should not even try either. We should however keep in mind that the way of communicating differs between regions and even towns. This applies not only to English, but also German and other foreign languages. As a hot tip when encountering a person whose word usage and dialect is different from what you’ve learned: ask what they meant by their sayings. It’s free and you can add to your vocabulary.

Enjoy the film! 🙂

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